EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Their slot in the first round has changed, but to many of those with an interest in the NFL Draft, the Giants' position remains as it was a year ago.
In 2018, the Giants owned the second overall selection and Eli Manning was entering his 15th season, dual circumstances that convinced draftniks, reporters and fans that they should select a potential franchise quarterback. But Dave Gettleman opted to take the player he considered the best in the draft, Saquon Barkley. Considering the running back set numerous records and was named the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, it was not a bad decision.
The 2019 draft begins a week from tonight. The Giants currently have the sixth and 17th selections. Manning his entering his 16th season. The same folks who thought securing a quarterback was the correct play a year ago are more convinced it's the right choice now.
But at his pre-draft news conference today, Gettleman was emphatic that he will not select a quarterback unless the value of the player is commensurate with the choice when the Giants are on the clock.
"I won't force a pick," Gettleman said. "You can't draft for need. You will get screwed every time and make a mistake."
Is a quarterback in its own special category?
"No, it is not," he said.
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Gettleman never wavered in answering any of the 16 quarterback-related questions he was asked, including, "Is selecting a quarterback a priority for you?"
"The priority is to select the best players," Gettleman said. "Last year, we could not pass up on Saquon. He was the best player in the draft. You can't do that. We have had this conversation before. Eli is closer to 40 than he is to 25. We can do that math. At the end of the day, we are going to take the best players."
Gettleman said this is a deep draft, particularly at wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback and safety. And, he said, "There are a couple of really good quarterbacks in this draft."
But that doesn't mean the Giants are going to take one, as Gettleman said – again – when questioned about his "level of urgency" to find a franchise quarterback.
"If you put a lot of pressure on it, you are going to make a mistake," Gettleman said. "I am not going to put a level on that. You let the draft come to you. We went into last season with Eli and thought he had plenty left. He proved that. We will just see how it goes."
Which also means they could very well select a quarterback. At the scouting combine in February, Gettleman spoke of the benefits of the "Kansas City model," after the success the Chiefs had in drafting Patrick Mahomes and letting him sit for a year behind Alex Smith before installing him as the starter. Mahomes led Kansas City to the AFC Championship Game and was named the league's Most Valuable Player.
"I said the KC model, (but) people have been doing that for years," Gettleman said. "This is just the most recent one. How about the Green Bay model with (Aaron) Rodgers and (Brett) Favre? He sat two and a half, three years. That is what you would like to do. Eli is a pro's pro and you guys know that. To allow a quarterback to learn at the feet of Eli, it would be a sweet deal. Kyle (Lauletta, drafted in the fourth round last year) is working on that right now. Don't forget about Kyle. You would prefer that be the situation. You would hate to take a young kid and just throw him in there."
Particularly when that youngster is going to play for the Giants.
"Being a quarterback of a team in this type of market is a load," Gettleman said. "It is a mental load. You have to really vet out the background of these guys. Just like being the head coach of this team is a load, being a quarterback is a load, too. It is more than just looking at a guy's physical talent. It is about his makeup. A lot of you guys were here Eli's first year. He starts the last (seven) games of the year and there were a couple games early on, the Baltimore game, where he was what, four of 15 (actually 18)? He is there and then we are playing Dallas in the last game of the year. We are on the six-yard-line going in and we have no timeouts. There is 12 seconds left in the game and he has the cujones to audible to a draw. If we don't score, we lose the game. You have to have a mental toughness about you to play the position here in New York. Or to play the position anywhere. That is a huge piece of it. It is important. If you don't think it is, you need to re-think it."
In evaluating quarterbacks, Gettleman first studies a player's physical ability. But as he just noted, mental makeup is also critical, and ideally Gettleman would like a quarterback who has proven he can succeed after experiencing adversity.
"Back in the fall, I was talking to (coach) Pat (Shurmur), and we were having that conversation," Gettleman said. "He said there are a lot of guys that never had adversity. You will have adversity up here. I don't care how great a player you are. I could sit down over a year and you could give me any Pro Bowl player. I can make you a 25, 30-snap tape and you will look at it and say, 'You have to be kidding me, he is getting paid that kind of money? You have to be kidding me, he went to the Pro Bowl.' Then, I will make the other 25-minute tape and you will say, 'Oh my God.' Everyone has adversity. Everyone. Who is mentally tough enough to say, 'OK, it happened once, it is not happening again?' With a lot of these guys, it is a very legitimate question. You have to dig so deep to see where they have had adversity. It is painful, but it is part of the evaluation."
All of which means the Giants may or may not select a quarterback. And that's what everyone said before the draft last year.